MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman on Monday urged the public to "just accept" that some soldiers have been inoculated against COVID-19, even if regulators have not yet approved a vaccine for this.
Some soldiers received the experimental coronavirus candidate developed by Chinese drug maker Sinopharm, said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.
"Huwag 'yo naman pong ipagkait sa ating mga sundalo kung nagkaroon sila ng proteksyon," he said in a virtual press briefing.
"Tanggapin na lang po natin na importante na iyong ating kasundaluhan, iyong mga nagbabantay sa ating seguridad ay ligtas na sa COVID nang magampanan nila ang kanilang trabaho," he added.
(Don't deprive our soldiers of protection from the disease. Let us just accept that it is important that our soldiers, those who are guarding our security are safe from COVID so they can do their jobs.)
It is not illegal for soldiers to receive the unregistered vaccines against COVID-19, he claimed.
"Ang bawal po ay iyong distribution at pagbebenta," said Roque.
(What is banned is is distribution and sale.)
Asked who facilitated the military vaccination, Roque said, "This must have been made by the soldiers, and probably their commanders kasi hindi naman po iyan makakarating sa sundalo kung walang go signal ng commanders."
(It would not have reached the soldiers if there was no go signal from the commanders.)
"And I understand naman this is voluntary," he said.
The public should not fret because if the country fails to secure COVID-19 vaccines from Western countries, China is offering its own vaccines, which have been given to over 1 million of its own people since July, Roque said.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to approve any vaccine for local use.
"Thus, there is currently no registered vaccine for use against COVID-19. Selling of unregistered vaccines is prohibited," it said on its website.
"These products have not gone through the registration process of the FDA and have not been issued with proper authorization. The agency cannot guarantee their quality, safety, and efficacy," added the regulator.
A military spokesman earlier Monday denied reports of vaccination in the Armed Forces.
"The AFP is not aware of COVID-19 inoculation made to military personnel. We do not have an AFP Leadership-sanctioned vaccination. We are getting details," AFP spokesman, Marine Major General Edgard Arevalo said in a separate statement.
He however updated his statement by 2 pm and admitted that "members of the Presidential Security Group," which is in charge of Duterte's security, "were the first ones from the AFP who were vaccinated owing to the nature of their mission and function.”